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THE VIEW FROM 2030

If we couldn’t travel by road, our lives would disintegrate. We couldn’t deliver goods, get to work, see friends, go to events and entertainments. And road transport depends on oil – more than 99% of vehicles are powered by petrol or diesel.

One way or another, that’s about to change.

Some people believe that we have about 50 years of oil left. Others think that oil production has peaked and we’re already on the fast track to empty. As Saudi Arabia’s then regent and now king, Abdullah bin Aziz Al Saud, told his subjects in 1998, “The oil boom is over and will not return... All of us must get used to a different lifestyle.”1 Sadad Al Husseini, the former head of Saudi Aramco’s production and exploration, held the same view ten years later. He thinks it likely that oil production reached its peak in 20062.

Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency believes that, on current trends, oil will peak in 2020. “One day – 2030 or 2040 – oil will run out. We have to leave oil before oil leaves us,”3 he said.

We had similar fears about energy in general in 2005, putting forward the prediction that the UK could face an energy gap of 16% at average demand in 2020 and a 31.5 gap at peak. And that was on a conservative analysis4. We have seen no evidence that changes that prediction.

If this is the case, we need to ask some hard questions.

1 Peak Oil could trigger meltdown of society, Energy Watch Group 2007
2 Dave Cohen (October 31, 2007). The Perfect Storm. ASPO-USA
3 Interview with Fatih Birol
4 Mind the Gap: The black hole at the heart of the UK’s energy supply.